Screenwriter Daniel Turkewitz was a top 10 finalist in the Tracking Board’s first annual Launch Pad Competition. He not only sold his sci-fi spec “Tranquililty Base” to Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox but he also signed with Brooklyn Weaver at Energy Entertainment and is being repped by APA. We caught up with him and had a quick chat about sci-fi, writing, and life in the business.
An Interview With Daniel Turkewitz Part 3
TB: Any careers you admire, want to model yourself off of?
Dan: Model? Not really. I’d rather forge my own path I guess. Of course how could I not admire Ridley Scott? Films two and three are Alien and Blade Runner so he started out with a bang, some comedies mixed in, film and TV, what’s not to admire?
TB: Long term, what kind of things do you hope to be writing in your career?
Dan: No big surprise, I enjoy sci-fi. So there’s certainly more of that on the way. I’ve got a three film sci-fi comedy franchise I’ve been working on, with a mix like “Men In Black,” “Ghostbusters,” “Back To The Future,” and “Night At The Museum.”
TB: That’s quite a franchise! What’s it about?
Dan: Well, it’s not a mash-up of those films. It’s completely original. The plot of which will remain under wraps for now. Sorry.
TB: Understandable. Anything else you working on?
Dan: I’ve written a few comedies. I have an idea for a TV series, but so far haven’t written anything. That’s all I can talk about for now.
TB: What were some of your favorite films and television series this year?
Dan: I loved “Gravity.” A great film that truly makes use of the IMAX 3D format. “Elysium” was excellent. Blomkamp can do gritty despair as well as anyone. “The World’s End” was a fave. Simon Pegg & Nick Frost can do no wrong. “World War Z” was a lesson in pacing. Keep moving, moving, moving! And “The Way Way Back” was very good. As for TV, I never miss “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Simpsons,” or “Revolution.”
TB: Gravity was an amazing visceral experience. What about all time favorites?
Dan: All time, there’s just too many films to list. I grew up watching everything Woody Allen and Mel Brooks made. The first movies I can remember seeing in a theater were a “Sleeper”/”Bananas” double feature. And of course I waited in line for “Star Wars” like everyone else. It came out when I was 13, so I wasn’t going to miss that. I grew up watching CBS’s legendary Saturday night lineup in the 1970’s: “All in the Family,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Bob Newhart Show” and “The Carol Burnett Show.” And the original “SNL” lineup.
TB: If you could pick one — what movie do you wish you’d written? And following that do you have ideas for any existing properties?
Dan: Who doesn’t wish they could claim “The Godfather” as their own? Hard to go wrong there. I have ideas for a few “Big Bang Theory” episodes, including the Comic Con episode they’ve failed to do. I think I’ve overcome every issue I’ve heard that has stopped them from doing it so far. I’m also ready to tear apart and rewrite the Oscars. An odd choice, I know. But I’ve watched it every year for decades, and have some great ideas. Yes, they do partially include kidnapping the Monty Python crew if need be. I’m sure they’ll be cool with it.
TB: Even if it was just John Cleese watching Terry Gilliam draw I’d be satisfied.
Dan: Well I can make that happen. Call me Oscars!
TB: What about dream projects?
Dan: Hmmm if I’m ever stuck in an elevator with Spielberg, I’m ready to throw “Indiana Jones 5” at him. I’ve got a winner.
TB: Indy 5. Now there’s a film I’d love to see, and hate to see at the exact same time. Does your take include the cast of part 4? Or is it more of a reboot/remake take on the whole thing? I mean Harrison isn’t getting any younger.
Dan: My idea includes most of the cast of part 4, and is a continuation of the series, not a reboot. Though a reboot is an interesting thing to ponder. On the one hand it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Harrison Ford being Indiana Jones. On the other hand, people thought the same thing about Sean Connery as James Bond, and that franchise is as big as ever, with Daniel Craig doing an awesome job.
TB: Interesting you should say that because Raiders essentially happened because Spielberg wanted to do Bond but couldn’t. Well I hope you get the perfect opportunity to pitch it. Speaking of perfect, what’s the perfect writing day for you?
Dan: There’s no one setting for a perfect day. If I get a lot done, it was perfect. If I don’t, it wasn’t.
TB: Fair enough. Do you have any days that you can look back on as a day you killed it as a writer. Some writers look back at “a-ha” moments that salvaged a script, or game-changing days when the writing just spilled out of you.
Dan: All my “a-ha” moments are when original story ideas came to me. As far as writing days, no one in particular pops up. Except the ones where you get to type “The End.” Those are always nice.
TB: Aside from writing, what sort of things interests you both within, and outside of the film industry?
Dan: I’ve filmed a few short docs. The first of which was a film called “A Day In The Life Of Coney Island.” A 20-minute doc, it’s about, well, the title says it all. Of course my “typical day” included the yearly Mermaid Parade, an event where nudity qualifies as family entertainment. Lots of cool time-lapse of the sunrise and sunset, footage shot while riding the Wonder Wheel and Cyclone rollercoaster, fireworks, the whole nine yards. It played in a few local festivals and won the “Best Shot In Coney Island” award at the 2011 Coney Island Film Festival. I also did a short-short one-minute piece on the 9/11 memorial lights in downtown Manhattan that was posted on Wired and NPR’s websites. You can watch it here.
TUNE IN NEXT TIME FOR MORE WITH DANIEL AS WE DISCUSS: